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Female Athletes Need More Training To Avoid Knee Injuries

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Wendy Rigby
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Texas Public Radio
Dr. Christian Balldin of the San Antonio Orthopaedic Group shows a knee model.

Girls who play sports are more susceptible to knee injuries than boys. It’s a combination of hormones and the mechanics of their anatomy that puts them at risk. But there are preventive measures that can help.

New Braunfels soccer player Chloe Selman is good at her sport.

"It’s my favorite sport," the petite blonde stated. "It’s very exciting. It’s intense."

  

Chloe has been playing soccer since she was 5 years old. Now, at age 15, this sophomore is on the junior varsity team at Smithson Valley High School. Two injuries to her left knee, though, will probably cut her soccer playing days short.

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Credit Shannon Selman
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Chloe Selman (wearing red) has been playing soccer for the last ten years.

  

"I was just playing soccer and I stepped wrong and my kneecap just popped out," Chloe described.

A dislocated patella or kneecap was the injury that sent her to the operating room, with sports medicine orthopedic surgeon Christian Balldin, MD heading up the team.

"We are seeing an epidemic when it comes to specifically knee inuries and specifically anterior cruciate ligament tears," Balldin said.

The ACL ligament is crucial to the stability it takes to change direction quickly, like soccer players do. Minor injuries can be treated with physical therapy or anti-inflammatory medications.

But sometimes, girls have to go under the knife said Balldin of the San Antonio Orthopedic Group. "

If you’re young and active and you participate in sports, and you tear your ACL, unfortunately, it’s going to require surgery a hundred percent of the time," he explained.

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Credit Wendy Rigby / Texas Public Radio
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Texas Public Radio
Christian Balldin, MD, is a sports medicine orthopedic surgeon with the San Antonio Orthopaedic Group.

  

Balldin said young female athletes need to vary their routine and include other forms of physical training like swimming or stationary biking, not just soccer all the time. He said girls need to pay attention to core strength training. And the doctor says coaches and parents need to watch out for overuse, fatigue and pain.

"If they are having pain, there’s no reason at a young age to play through pain,"Balldin said. "Let them be kids. Let them enjoy life. Don’t pressure them into playing the same sport year round."

Chloe’s mom, Shannon Selman, said knowing what she knows now, she would have advised her daughter to train a little differently.

"Take the extra time. Make your daughter stretch, do those extra exercises," Shannon added. "I just feel like if Chloe had done some more strength training that she probably wouldn’t have been in this situation."

Chloe also wishes she had made some changes after her first injury. She gave this advice to other young soccer players with knee problems: "Wear a knee brace 24/7 and never take it off."

Studies conducted over the last decade show girls are eight times more likely than boys to injure their knees in sports. Stretching, strength exercises and cross training may help lower that disparity.